Saturday, October 18, 2008

Winter Prep Activities for the Worm Bin

Removing finished material to make room for fresh bedding is imperative when you are preparing your bins for winter.

If your bins are out doors, and there is a concern for your worms freezing then it is even more important to get fresh bedding in to the bin.

The idea is to time your addition of fresh bedding and food stock for the change in temperature. Once the weather changes and the temperature starts dropping then it is safe to start encouraging some composting in the bin. But be careful! It is so easy to get a spike in temperature, and if that is combined with a warming trend you could be in trouble.

This is something I have to be very careful of here in my part of the world. I worked one of the bins recently and added food waste and fresh bedding with a thin layer of grass clippings. The bin before I started working it was running about 68 degrees. The food waste when I put it in the bin was about 56 degrees. By the next day when I check the temperature the bin was reading 87 and by the time I got out there today to feed and water, the bin was reading 97 degrees.

Now it's important to remember that I always put the temperature probe in the center of the bin right where the food waste is, and if you remember from my videos I put the food waste down the center of the bin so that if the material does heat up the outsides of the bin remain cool for the worms. This is indeed the case as I put temperature probes along side of the bin and the temperatures reads 76 and 79. So you see that if the winter temperatures had continued to drop the composting action would be very beneficial.

Stay tuned and happy worming,


Monday, October 06, 2008

Anatomy of a Worm Composting Bin

Minimal size for a conventional composting bin is 3' x 3' x 3'. This is a size that is managable for handling by hand and for building up composting heat. It 's important for you to understand that the bacterial action going on in the pile is what is causing the heat.

When you combine Carbon + Nitrogen + Water + Air you provide the perfect environment for massive bacteria growth which is consuming (composting) the material in your bin. Once your conventional compost pile heats up and then cools, you turn the material in the bin to move fresh material to the center of the bin mixing air back into the mix, and composting begins again and the heat in the bin builds again.

When worm bin composting you want to be very careful that you do not get the heat you produce in a conventional composting bin.

1. When you mix materials for a new bin always allow the material to sit before you add your worms to make sure you have not created a haven for massive bacteria action. HEAT!

2. Once you know the material is not going to heat up, separate out some of the bedding into another container and add only a small portion of your worms to make sure the bedding is safe and the worms will like it.

3. As soon as you suspect a problem, if you can feel heat, it smells bad, and or your worms are trying to escape IN MASS, get them out. If you are not sure of your bedding, use wet, shredded newspaper. Keep a supply handy at all times.

4. If you have a bin that has been active for a while and you develope a problem, there is a possibility that you have cocoons in the bedding and you loose your worms, don't throw away your bedding. Leave it and you may have worms hatch once the bedding becomes habitable again.

Just remember, heat kills worms.

Good Luck,

Until next time.

Vermiculture Northwest